Reviewed by Joanne Potter
Joanne, BSN and RN, is a writer that specializes in health and wellness. She has fifteen years of experience as a Registered Nurse in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her years working at the bedside and extensive neonatal knowledge enable her to write with a deep understanding of what patients and families want from their communities. Visit her LinkedIn page.
The dreaded “tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” question. No one likes this question. Why? Because we don’t want to sound like we’re bragging about ourselves, but on the other hand, we don’t want to criticize ourselves either.
The best antidote to fearing this question is to be prepared. In this article, we will discuss strengths and weaknesses. We will discuss what to do and what not to do for both strengths and weaknesses. Examples will also be provided so you can plan ahead and go into the nursing interviews well prepared, with little fear.
How to Talk About Your Strengths in a Nursing Interview – Dos and Don’ts
Strengths are skills or character traits that are considered positive. Strengths can include talents, skills, attributes, and knowledge.
Dos – What to Do
Categorize your strengths
Start by brainstorming and writing down a comprehensive list of all the strengths that come to mind. Then, reflecting on that list, place each strength into one of three categories.
- Knowledge-based strengths – These are strengths that you acquire from work, personal life, and academic experiences
- Personality traits – A person’s characteristics that impact how they feel, think, and behave consistently over time.
- Transferable skills – Talents, knowledge, and abilities that can be used from one job to another. These are relevant and helpful skills across many areas of life, not just work.
Customize your strengths
After going through the list and placing each of your strengths into the three categories, it’s best to go through and choose the ones that fit most with the job description. Look closely at the job description and customize the strengths in your list that match up.
Critically think about which of your strengths can be used in the job, and think of examples to reflect upon.
Remain confident but humble
How do you come across as confident while remaining humble? Short and sweet is the key here. This is why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time. Stick with your list of strengths and don’t stray. Give your examples and move on to the next.
When people are unprepared or caught off guard, they tend to ramble, and that can lead to a lack of self-confidence. Body language and tone of voice are also key in coming across as humble, yet confident.
Don’ts – What NOT to Do
Don’t get too personal
Don’t bring life experiences into the interview. Having a baby isn’t a strength for being a labor and delivery nurse. Having a family member with cancer doesn’t qualify as a strength for being an oncology nurse. While those life experiences may have an impact on why you’re going into nursing, they don’t need to be brought up in the interview.
There is that fine line between being confident but not overly confident. Don’t brag and sound boastful. Again, preparing ahead of time is key. Don’t ramble or carry on about why you’re the best and everyone else is wrong. That’s a tremendous turn-off and comes across as bragging and therefore hard to work with.
Example Interview Answers for Strengths in a Nursing Interview
Here are just a few samples of successful answers to nursing interview questions about strengths.
“This opportunity as an emergency department nurse requires highly developed stress management skills, including the ability to work effectively under pressure. One of my greatest strengths as a nurse has been my ability to manage high levels of stress while thinking clearly and maintaining efficiency.”
“The work of an intensive care unit nurse requires a high level of detail-oriented skills, which I believe is one of my strengths. In the workplace, I frequently notice subtle changes in a patient’s critical condition that might otherwise be overlooked.”
“It is my compassion for patients that I believe is my greatest strength. I know this position involves working with neonatal patients and their families. I believe my desire to provide compassionate support and care to infants and their loved ones makes me a qualified candidate for this position.
As I mentioned previously, short and sweet is key. These are only a couple of sentences and they showcase your strengths without rambling or sounding like you’re bragging.
How to Talk About Your Weaknesses in a Nursing Interview – Dos and Don’ts
Weaknesses are just the opposite of strengths. They are skills or character traits that are considered negative or just not as well developed. Weaknesses can include poorly-developed skills or problematic personal behaviors.
Dos – What to Do
Remaining honest and being upfront is an important part of building trust with a future employer during an interview. Those doing the hiring appreciate authenticity, credibility, and humility. While it may be tempting to skew your weaknesses into something they’re not, don’t do it.
Potential employers see right through it and will be turned off. Nursing is an incredibly trusting profession and carries a lot of prestige, hiring managers will be turned off if they sense any type of dishonesty or deceit.
Assess your weaknesses
Ahead of the interview is a time to reflect on your weaknesses. Make a list and assess each of the weaknesses you’ve listed. Then, from that list, look at those weaknesses that you can improve on. Look at what you can improve on to make you a more successful nurse. To get you started, below is a list of some common nursing weaknesses.
- Attempting to do everything at once
- Spending too long on paperwork
- Lack of clinical experience (for those new to a specific area or new grads)
- Excessive self-criticism
- Being unfamiliar with newer software and technology
Demonstrate your motivation for improvement
While discussing your weaknesses with hiring managers, it’s imperative to demonstrate your active efforts to improve on each weakness. While everyone has weaknesses, the only negative is when you dismiss or don’t own up to it, as it shows you have no desire to change it.
Go through your list of weaknesses and reflect on how you can improve on each one. How can you implement changes right away to improve each weakness? It’s not an overnight change, but as you implement positive habits for each one, you’ll notice overall changes throughout. That’s what hiring managers want to hear.
Don’ts – What NOT to Do
Avoid blaming others
Blaming others or deflecting weaknesses from yourself turns people off, including hiring managers. Again, be upfront and honest. Own up to it. Accept it. Acknowledging that you’re aware of the weaknesses is the first step in being able to apply corrective measures.
Don’t criticize yourself
Don’t speak badly about yourself. The hiring manager isn’t asking for your weaknesses to hear about how bad of a person you are. They’re wanting to see how you handle yourself under pressure and how you’re able to self-reflect.
This is why being prepared with a list and examples is imperative and will keep you from rambling. Stick with your list, your goals, and ways to improve. Don’t talk badly about yourself.
Example Answers for Strengths in a Nursing Interview
Here are just a few samples of successful answers to nursing interview questions about weaknesses.
“For nearly ten years, I’ve been managing charts and schedules digitally with the same patient management system. A lot of hospitals have recently started to use newer systems, and I’m not familiar with them.
I am participating in online training to help me adjust to the current software so that I am well prepared to switch to newer patient management systems.”
“Occasionally, I find it challenging to delegate tasks among my team and resolve disagreements about how to approach tasks because other nurses and sparamedical taff members have different work styles than I do.
To express my feelings constructively and listen to what my co healthcare professionals are saying, I’m strengthening my communication skills through independent study and seminars.”
“I tend to procrastinate my charting and administrative tasks because I feel it takes away from the quality time I’m able to spend with patients. But this means I often end up rushing through my charting at the end of the shift. I am working to break this habit by better managing my time and scheduling time throughout my shifts to fill out paperwork carefully and complete my charting as needed.”
Just like in the examples of strengths, each example is short and sweet. A few sentences to describe your weakness and how you’re working to improve it.
Nursing careers in Canada
We will also show you the different types of nursing careers that you can pursue in Canada and what makes them different from each other:
A Registered Practical Nurse (RPN)
RPNs are required to possess foundational knowledge that combines nursing skills with the sound judgment within the context of traditional nursing and bedside care like blood pressure readings, inserting catheters, or answering basic patient questions. Registered Practical Nurses require the least education and training but must complete a two-year practical nursing program from an accredited institution nonetheless.
A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
A Licensed Practical Nurse provides the patients with a variety of basic healthcare services like checking their vital signs and assisting with bathing, dressing, and eating. LPNs’ responsibilities are crucial in order to ensure that patients’ overall comfort and well-being are maintained while they receive medical care.
Registered Nurse (RN)
RNs are generally thought of as generalists. They hold a much deeper knowledge base than an RPN or an LPN. While Registered Nurses make more money, LPNs are able to get through nursing school much faster, thus spending less money on school. It’s not uncommon for someone to get their LPN certification, get a job, and then continue their education as an RN while working in an LPN role.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
NPs generally will start their career as RNs before moving into a specific discipline. Nurse Practitioners offer much more comprehensive treatment to patients, diagnose illnesses, offer medications, and discuss treatment plans. They also help to administer medicine prescribed by a physician, which is the biggest difference between an NP and an RN.
One of the great things about nursing in Canada is that it offers a lot of different potential paths. RPNs, LPNs, RNs, and NPs can all specialize in one or more areas. Travel Nurse, Oncology Nurse, Nurse Midwife, Cosmetic Nurse are just a few possible other options.
The key takeaway here is to be prepared. Don’t get caught off guard when the hiring managers ask you the strengths and weaknesses question. Make a list of strengths. Make a list of weaknesses.
Reflect on each of them. Examples are key and they are what potential employers are looking for, as the examples show how each strength and weakness relates to the job you’re interviewing for.
Being prepared and ready for the nursing interview is key and imperative to your success. Don’t fear the strengths and weaknesses question. Be prepared and you’ll be walking out of that interview full of confidence and, most likely, a new nursing job.
1. What should I answer in strengths and weaknesses?
You should answer this question with an honest assessment of yourself, and try not to mention any negatives about yourself that may hurt your chances of getting the job if they’re not necessary. Strengths and weaknesses are often used as job interview questions. Strengths can be anything you believe to be your positive traits, while weaknesses can be things that could make you less desirable for the position.
2. How do I tell my weaknesses in an interview?
It is important, to be honest in an interview, but it is also important to not dwell on your weaknesses. You should list any weaknesses that you feel are relevant and then move on. For example, if you have trouble with deadlines or following through with tasks, mention this briefly and then explain how you’ve improved upon this weakness.
3. Is overthinking a weakness?
Yes, overthinking is a weakness. Overthinking can lead to wrong critical decisions and bad judgment. It also leads to a lot of stress and anxiety that can be overwhelming for some people.
4. What are 3 areas of improvement nursing?
- Nursing is an ever-changing nursing profession, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments in your field.
- Nurses are expected to be at the forefront of knowledge about public health issues like obesity and diabetes, as well as chronic conditions such as heart disease or cancer.
- The nursing shortage has created a need for nurses with specialized skills in areas like pediatrics or psychiatry.
5. What are the strength of a nurse?
The strength of a great nurse is to care for their patients. They are compassionate and empathetic towards people who need medical attention. Nurses have the responsibility of making sure that they take care of their patient’s needs, whether this means giving them what they want or need at the time, such as water or food, or if it means tending to wounds and injuries.